Weird History

The Brutal History Behind Tarring And Feathering

Throughout history, many societies have used tarring and feathering as both punishment and humiliation. The practice reaches as far back as the 12th century, and the last instance occurred as recently as 1981, despite most people associating the ritual with the late 18th century. Traditionally, the practice of tarring and feathering is seen as a form of protest as well as punishment.

Although instances of tarring and feathering have occurred globally throughout history, one of the most bizarre comes from the island of Dominica (now the Dominican Republic): in 1789, a British soldier was caught engaging in sexual an acts with a turkey and was made to "wear the bird's feathers" in his beard and around his neck. Other victims of the punishment include drunken nuns and priests, British officers in the American colonies, and, in the last century, African-Americans at the hands of racially intolerant groups. 

Contrary to popular belief, tarring and feathering was not fatal – the survival rate was actually very high – but the punishment itself was slow, brutal, and purposefully humiliating.